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Senator interrupted by chair in two hearings
01:27 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's brand was likely enhanced by events of this week

And Sen. Chris Murphy says he's not interested, in case you were curious

Sen. Kamala Harris was shushed, once again, by colleagues on her committee

Washington CNN  — 

A new player is making his way onto 2020 Democratic watch lists this week: Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan.

Check his travel schedule: Ryan is headed to South Carolina on Saturday to campaign for Archie Parnell ahead of Tuesday’s special election for a House seat. The following weekend, Ryan will give a commencement address at the Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, on Saturday. (The university uses meditation in the classroom; Ryan practices daily yoga and meditation.) Then he’ll be in Polk County for an event Sunday at Cooney’s Pub.

Two early state trips in two weekends is enough to kick up some speculation — even if Ryan, who ran against Nancy Pelosi for the top House Democratic post in the fall, is an unlikely presidential contender. Ryan does, however, represent a constituency in Youngstown that Democrats need to win back. And he was a contender for Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nod. (Spot him in the background here.) A word of caution about Ryan: He’s flirted with higher office before only to ultimately decline to run. He just passed on a run for Ohio governor in 2018.

News and notes

Another big week for Harris: California Sen. Kamala Harris was shushed, once again, by Senate intelligence chairman Richard Burr, this time during her rapid-fire grilling of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. These moments are introducing her to Democrats nationally. Some social numbers: Between Tuesday’s hearing and Friday, Harris added more than 64,000 new followers on her official Twitter account and 71,000 on her political Twitter handle. She also picked up 27,000 more Facebook followers by Thursday afternoon.

— Harris is smartly seizing on the new attention of the last two weeks, using it to help endangered senators up in 2018. She used her fundraising list to raise money for Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill this week. So far this year, Harris has raised $250,000 through mostly online, small-dollar contributions to support colleagues up in 2018 and more than $500,000 for her own political action committee.

— Clip ‘n save this comment on national television from a frustrated Sessions during Tuesday’s hearing: “I’m not able to be rushed this fast. It makes me nervous.” It’s ready-made for a future Harris ad.

— From the 2020 perspective, one Democratic operative tells me Harris is “very credible” and will benefit from recent events with women and minority voters — that is, the Democratic base. Another says the last two weeks are “feeding rocket fuel to her pathway toward 2020. I don’t know if she wants it, but her star is rising.”

Murphy says he’s not running: These sorts of answers have a way of changing over time, but Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy was asked on Connecticut Public Radio if he is interested in running for president and said, “I’m not.” He added: “I am interested in having a national voice. I am interested in doing that through the United States Senate.”

Return of the Macker: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s brand was likely enhanced a bit by his Lieutenant Gov. Ralph Northam’s easier-than-expected Democratic primary win over former Rep. Tom Perriello this week. Northam’s win showed local fundamentals — particularly the support of local and state Democrats and his status as McAuliffe’s No. 2 — still matter in an anti-Donald Trump national environment. “Shows something to Dems around the country that Dems in VA like TerryISM,” one Democratic operative emailed me on primary night.

— To be clear, McAuliffe, who is publicly flirting with a 2020 run (he told me a few weeks ago he’ll “see what happens” after 2018), isn’t the Democratic governor who’s the subject of the most chatter. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, in particular, are being more closely watched. There are also ex-governors to watch — including Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. As for McAuliffe, other Democrats note his time as the party’s chairman and top fundraiser would cause headaches. “Too much Clinton. Too insider. Too establishment,” another Democratic operative told me.

Merkley books an Iowa trip: Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley (who CNN’s Ashley Killough just profiled) will headline the Progress Iowa Corn Feed on September 10 along with South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Merkley was the only senator to endorse Bernie Sanders last year and is an important behind-the-scenes player with progressive groups.

Facebookers talk shooting, baseball game: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg weighed in on the Congressional Baseball Game, saying: “It’s great to see Republicans and Democrats coming together to honor the victims of yesterday’s shooting and use our services to raise money for charity.” So did Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote that she is “praying that everyone injured recovers quickly and that everyone on the scene will get any help they need to put this trauma behind them. And like many Americans I’m grateful to the US Capitol Police officers for their extraordinary heroism.”

Warren hits GOP on health care: Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren criticized Senate Republican leadership today on “CBS This Morning” over its approach to health care, saying 13 men are behind closed doors working on a bill and “won’t let Democrats in the room to even see the bill.” She also took a swing at Trump, telling GOP senators the House-passed bill was “mean,” noting that “that’s the same bill that he threw a party for right after it passed.”

The week ahead

— Former Vice President Joe Biden keynotes the Florida Democratic Party’s “Leadership Blue” gala in Hollywood, Florida, on Saturday evening.

— Minnesota Sen. Al Franken will join Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper from 6 to 10 p.m. MT in Denver on Saturday for an event publicizing Franken’s new memoir.

— Tuesday is the Georgia sixth congressional district special election between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel, as well as the South Carolina’s fifth district contest between Parnell and Republican Ralph Norman. Watch for potential 2020 prospects weighing in on these races.

— Biden headlines the DNC’s annual LGBT Gala in New York on Wednesday night.

The view from the left

Notes from CNN’s Greg Krieg:

— About last weekend: More than 4,000 activists gathered in Chicago for the second annual People’s Summit. The convention was organized by National Nurses United, the powerful union that backed Sanders from the start and is willing to spend to keep the cause — and its push for “Medicare-for-all” — front and center. Attendees were treated to vintage Sanders on Saturday night. A major theme: The Democratic Party, as he put it, had written off traditionally red enclaves and it was time again to “knock on every damn door.” The money line — which you could and should tie to the forthcoming note on Georgia — was this: “Strong progressives could do far, far better than anyone imagined and … with proper organization and financial resources we can win in any district in the United States of America.”

— FYI: As the Berniecrats see it, Ossoff is an empty suit, a (Seinfeld-style) candidate-about-nothing. So if his almost canonical inoffensiveness falls short, brace for a new wave of recriminations from the left. Progressives were not pleased when the DNC didn’t exactly circle the wagons for their guys in Kansas and Montana. Failure in Georgia would be cause for some soul-searching regardless, but it’d also re-up some 2016-ish grievances.

— Overheard at the People’s Summit: “Run as far left as you possibly can, because they’re going to call you a commie anyway.” Exhibit A for this being a fair point comes from Virginia GOP gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie, who tweeted Thursday that the fairly moderate Democratic nominee, Northam, “is the most extreme, left-wing candidate ever to run for governor in Virginia.”

— Trump’s “Infrastructure week” was a major bust, but progressive groups are working to seize the issue. The Working Families Party and Progressive Change Campaign Committee are again talking up a congressional resolution from late May that sets “10 principles” for any future infrastructure plan. House Republicans are unlikely to take notice, but you can be sure any potential future Democratic nominee will be asked to sign on — perhaps literally — and pledge to make any major infrastructure project a public one.

Before you go

Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown is up for re-election in 2018 and is already being targeted on tax reform by the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity. … Warren has been re-upping her calls for Sessions to be fired. … Tom Steyer is calling on Congress to begin the process of impeaching Trump.

With contributions from CNN’s Ashley Killough, Sophie Tatum, Miranda Green, Saba Hamedy, Betsy Klein and Dan Merica.